The Utah Jazz were scheduled to board a plane late Friday afternoon, thus ending their eight-day training camp and ushering in the beginning of the exhibition season.
The Jazz play their first exhibition game Saturday at 6:30 p.m. (MDT) at Chicago Stadium against the Bulls. The game will air live on KISN radio (AM-570).Coach Jerry Sloan said the camp went about as expected and players worked hard. "Overall, we played pretty well," he said. "But we'll find out more in the (Saturday) game."
Friday's session ended what could be the Jazz's most optimistic camp ever. Center Mike Brown appears to be developing well in an expanding role and second-year man Blue Edwards reported in good shape and played exceptionally this week. The addition of veteran guard Jeff Malone has added a measure of anticipation.
"You get a guy like Jeff coming from a team that basically never really progressed, and he's eager to come to the team and contribute, so you're all excited," said forward Thurl Bailey.
The Jazz didn't escape the preseason without injuries. Andy Toolson and Alan Bannister suffered hyperextended knees. Delaney Rudd sustained a broken nose and Eric Johnson continues to nurse a bruised heel. Though Edwards never missed a practice, he was hit so many times during the week that Sloan teased, "They're using you for a punching bag."
Through the week, though, the Jazz appeared to be blending well. Malone was working smoothly with the other veterans, and should be ready to assume his starting position in the lineup when needed. The Jazz now have several new looks, which can include Mike Brown, Mark Eaton or Karl Malone at center, and they can use three- or two-guard offenses. "It's amazing how many weapons we have," said Bailey.
Sloan, never one for superlatives, did acknowledge that this year's camp was acceptable. "We had good intensity. I guess I've always been around teams that worked hard. I listen to other coaches and they talk about how hard our guys work. But if they don't want to work hard, we don't want them."